When Meat-Eaters Turn Vegan: An Introduction to Veganism in Veganuary

It’s January, and for many people around the world this marks the beginning of a new year and a commitment to some sort of resolution for healthy fresh start! For some of you, this might mean a new fitness routine but for us here at Aarja Health, we’re going to embrace “Veganuary”. 

You might be wondering – what in the world does Veganuary mean? Simply put, the purpose of Veganuary is to get people to eat a vegan diet for the month of January with the hopes of inspiring them to eat a little more plant-based year-round. With all the different dietary types out there, we’re kicking off this Veganuary with a simple introduction to veganism!

What does vegan mean?

When you think of veganism, what comes to mind? For some people, the word vegan is easily confused with vegetarianism. The key difference here is that while vegetarians don’t consume any meat, vegans don’t consume any animal products. So, when a vegetarian may opt for regular milk (produced by a cow) a vegan would choose a product not produced by an animal (like almond or oat milk). This means that any product with an animal involved in its production – like cheese, eggs, honey, and butter – is a no-go for vegans!

What do vegans eat?

Now that we’ve covered what veganism is, the next burning question most people have is”‘what can vegans eat”? The beautiful thing about the vegan diet is that it pushes the boundaries of what many people consider ‘normal’. Needless to say, we’re far past meat and potatoes with veganism. Instead of chicken wings, you might opt for cauliflower bites; replace your beef and chicken burgers with lentil patties. With veganism, you’ll be able to explore your creativity in the kitchen and come up with wonderful vegetable creations! As for specifics, let’s take a look at what vegans can and can’t eat!

What vegans can eat:

Fruits and vegetables

Beans, lentils, peas

Nuts and seeds

Bread, rice, pasta

Dairy alternatives (ex. almond milk, coconut yogurt)

Vegetable oils

What vegans can’t eat:

Beef, pork, lamb, other red meats

Chicken, duck, and other poultry

Fish, shellfish, crabs, clams, mussels

Eggs

Cheese, butter, dairy products, mayonnaise (due to presence of egg yolks)

Honey

Why go vegan?

There are many reasons as to why someone would want to switch up their regular diet in favor this plant-fuelled option. Let’s take a look at a few of the reasons as to why someone would choose to become a vegan.

For the Animals

It’s widely known that the food industry as it currently operates doesn’t necessarily put the quality of life of the animals first. With the high demand for animal products the focus has shifted from family-owned and operated farms to mass meat production which, needless to say, hasn’t been the best for living conditions. Whether we, as a population, would like to admit it or not, there is a way to take a stand against the exploitation and cruelty against animals…by refusing to support the industry creating the issue. Even if you have no bone to pick with the food industry itself, becoming a vegan could even stand as an act of compassion for all you animal lovers out there!

For Overall Health 

While there have been many debates as to whether or not the vegan diet contains the appropriate balance of nutrients to support health, we’re here to tell you that when done properly, it absolutely does! In fact, the high intake of fruits and vegetables, healthy fats from nuts and seeds, as well as fibre makes for an excellent health-supporting combination of delicious foods. Many people even find that switching from their normal diet to a vegan one also switches their focus back to whole foods (versus processed and packaged ones) which brings about significant health results as well. In fact, studies have shown that veganism has positive impacts on heart disease, Type 2 Diabetes, cancer, and vegans often have a lower weight than their meat-eating counterparts.

For the Environment

Did you know that animal products have one of the highest impacts on the environment of all food products? If not, take a moment to think about the resources it takes to raise animals for food. We need to grow crops to feed them, use water for those crops as well as the livestock, and together this puts a big stress on our natural resources. On top of this, because there is a high demand for animal products, more land has to be used to raise and feed those animals which contributes to deforestation, habitat loss, and in some cases, species extinction. Switching to a more plant-based lifestyle can require only about 1/3 of the land needed to support other diets.

A Personal Challenge

If these reasons aren’t of any interest to you, then let us present to you a fourth and final option – for a personal challenge! Aarja Health as a whole relies on the knowledge of the Sami people, most of which were very heavy meat-eaters. As reindeer herders, it should come as no surprise that reindeer meat was in no short supply. But, with their wandering lifestyle the Sami always had to adapt to their environment which meant taking full advantage of the Nordic plant life that nature provided. In times where plants became highly available, they often found that the unique nutrients of plant-based foods gave them health in ways that little else could. You see, it can be very difficult to fully understand the impacts of a large dietary change like veganism until you try it out for yourself. Even if you have no intention of becoming a full-time vegan, you may learn some new skills in the kitchen, find a new favourite food, improve your health, or any number of other potential outcomes. So, why not? Who’s joining us this Veganuary?